Friday, November 30, 2012

Palestinians Upgrade Status at the U.N.

It was a historic day in the Middle East. On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Israel and the historic vote that created Two States in part of the former British Mandate in Palestine (one which the Palestinians rejected, leading to many years of bloodshed and violence that continues to this day), The Palestinians are at the U.N.General Assembly just got a vote that extends non-state observer status to the nation of Palestine.

SO.. now what? What does this mean?

Barak Ravid over at Haaretz has a comprehensive and quick explanation for all of this. I recommend reading it

What decision also means is now that the Palestinians can be internationally considered at the State level, they will also have responsibilities towards not only their neighbors towards their own populace. For them, this is a double edged sword. One reason is due to the fact that as of late the Green Flag of Hamas has been seen flying more often in the West Bank, and a Hamas run Palestinian State will not generate nearly the support that a Palestinian Authority / PLO state will.

Another important aspect of this is that now as a State actor they will have responsibility for the Palestinian "Refugees" of the 1948 war. Will they turn their back on the people that the U.N. considers refugees? Will they now offer a home to the Palestinians in Jordan, The Gulf, or Lebanon who want to live in the State of Palestine? No one really knows. But again that presents a thorny issue. The PLO has long claimed to speak for the "refugees" will they continue that or will it be the Government of Palestine. This gets even more complicated if Hamas happens to win the next Palestinian elections (whenever they may be). The Palestinians will have to further establish this important piece of the puzzle.

But for the situation "on the ground" to change there have to be direct negotiations around the borders. As it stands now, nothing of the borders has been decided. To ask the Israelis to give up the Kotel and the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem simply isn't plausible. At the very minimum for there ever to peace this must be respected. In all reality the Israelis probably would not give up any part of Jerusalem, however, this has not been fully or seriously tested. One also would be talking about giving up the neighborhoods around East Jerusalem and the corridor up to Mt. Scopus. Again, that is pretty much something I can't see the Israelis ever budging on and in fact, from news of today: 3,000 new homes have approved beyond the Green Line which would seem to indicate that this version of the Israeli Government is not only going to not honor the Palestinian claims but will continue to build across the Green Line.

On the other side of the "ball" (so to speak) - there are some positives. The first and foremost is that this puts the Two State Solution back on the table Front AND Center. While Israel can ignore this for a while longer they cannot and should not ignore for any long period of time. I can understand with the chaos in the Palestinian polity why the Israelis would not address this, but, at some point in the very near future they will have to address it. There simply is too much at stake to, (as Mitt Romney suggested they do) "kick the can down the road".

This decision will also put pressure on the upcoming Israeli elections. As we all know, Israel's leading party, (and likely future head of the government) Likud took a hard right turn in the recent Likud primary. By moving people like Moshe Feiglin, and Danny Danon up, the Likud is seemingly committing itself to further occupation and eventual declaration of something approaching annexation of the West Bank (advocated by Danon and the YESHA). These maximalist efforts will most likely run into opposition from the Quartet and eventually the U.S. government particularly as it tries to build an alliance with Arab States against Iranian hegemonistic interests.

In the effort against spreading Iranian influence (including their arming of Hamas), the U.S. will most likely find it more difficult gaining influence in the Arab nations if the Israelis are actively settling the beyond the Green Line and not declaring any final borders. Israel simply needs to figure out the borders that they are willing to negotiate around. If it is the entire West Bank, then they are going to face serious problems from their neighboring states (who already don't like them), and the Western Nations (including the U.S). that are committed to the Two State Solution. Of course, this is to say nothing of the problems that they will face with demographic issues and challenges to their democracy.

So Israel has to ask itself... can it really afford to piss off the United States and Western Europe particularly as those nations gear up to dealing with Iran and the real challenges that Iran is going to present to the region and to U.S. interests. Now, while this may not be a problem going forward with the U.S. (though I think it will and I understand completely why) it will be one with the European Nations.

I believe that this event will mark the beginning of a process (that may take years to complete) that will eventually lead to a resolution of the Israeli - Palestinian conflict (note that I do not say the Arab-Israeli conflict). I have no idea what this resolution will be and whether it will lead to Peace of not. There are too many "moving pieces" and both the international economic or environmental climate will have effects. But... all in all I believe it is the beginning of the "endgame" for both sides. Unfortunately, like the participants in this, I have no idea where it will end up.


  1. Paul in San FranciscoNovember 30, 2012 at 10:58 AM

    Good analysis. Although the Palestinians and their friends will never admit it, this should also be viewed as a belated apology for rejecting the Partition Plan in the first place. Because of their rejectionism 60+ years ago, thousands of people have died -- not just Israelis, but Palestinians, and bystanders in other countries, too. Millions of dollars have been spent on airport security, Olympic security, etc., because the Palestinians rejected this kind of resolution 64 years ago.

    We accept their apology. The world should send them an itemized bill.

  2. Well, Paul at first I was in total agreement (and I do agree with "sending a bill") but, I have to say, that I am not sure about the apology thing. Here's why: In 1948 acceptance of the Partition plan was acceptance of Israel. HERE... is a unilateral declaration of Statehood with NO EXPLICIT RECOGNITION OF ISRAEL as the nation it was intended to be. Notice, there is no renunciation of Palestinian Right of Return. So, Palestine would be happy to have Israel there but only if it had a Palestinian majority and was basically Palestine Part II.

    1. I'd like to see the text of the resolution. So far, I haven't been able to find it. The UN certainly didn't post it yesterday.

    2. I can't find it either.

      I wonder if it is just a simple... "Palestine to be granted non-member, observer status - yes or no".

      I doubt it so I will continue to look for any text. Interesting if there is none.

    3. OH WAIT... Here it is-

      One key part of the Text:

      Affirms its determination to contribute to the achievement of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and the attainment of a peaceful settlement in the Middle East that ends the occupation that began in 1967 and fulfills the vision of two States, an independent, sovereign, democratic, contiguous and viable State of Palestine, living side by side in peace and security with Israel, on the basis of the pre-1967 borders;

      SO... nothing in there about Israeli control of the Kotel and the Jewish Quarter.

      However, then does leave the door open to negotiations here:

      Expresses the urgent need for the resumption and acceleration of negotiations within the Middle East peace process, based on the relevant United Nations resolutions, the Madrid terms of reference, including the principle of land for peace, the Arab Peace Initiative and the Quartet Roadmap, for the achievement of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace settlement between the Palestinian and Israeli sides that resolves all outstanding core issues, namely the Palestine refugees, Jerusalem, settlements, borders, security and water;

    4. Here is a link to all the proceedings regarding this vote:

      It is interesting (but long) reading.

    5. Paul in San FranciscoDecember 1, 2012 at 2:29 PM

      It seems the resolution itself is relatively vague and innocuous. It was the remarks by Abbas and the rest of the PDC (Palestinian Derangement Crowd) that were inflammatory.

  3. I'm not a subscriber at Haaretz, so I'm not able to read the story. I've seen a lot of people painting this as a "loss" for Israel, but I guess this isn't necessarily the case.

    VB, do you think that this statehood votes helps Likud in the next elections?

    1. That's a very interesting question drfreak. I honestly don't know how this will shake out.

      I think that will depend on what the fallout from the Governments reaction to this will be. I can see it going a number of different ways.

      One way I can see this going is this: If there is continued retaliation against the P.A. for this, including an expansion of Israeli settlement activity (as will be pushed by the new list) and there are no rockets or terror attacks, I think that will hurt Israel's standing in the international community AND will hurt with the U.S. who will find it much harder to stand with an expansionist Israeli policy and continue to work with Arab governments to stop Iranian hegemony. So in one way, it could hurt Likud in that it's opponents (and you know I support Avodah) would rightly point out that Israel is dangerously isolating itself even with it's strongest ally. Going against the West in this case is at best a very stupid move. I mean, who exactly do the Israelis think they can count on for support if they continue along the path to annexation of the West Bank?

      On the other hand. The Israeli public is moving Right. SO... if Israel is internationally isolated, this would simply feed into a "Masada Complex" and push them further that way. They may feel that NO ONE will support them and they count on no one but themselves and so the positions taken by a Likud-Betainu alliance would create more "Stiffening of the spine" in the Israeli Polity.

      Now... if there is more Palestinian Terror along with this, then yes, this statehood vote very much helps Likud-Betainu. Why? Because then Israel can say... "Hey, look folks.. the world gave the Palestinians what they say they want, and it is still not enough, we have to do everything we can to secure borders and territory. Do we want another Gaza on our hands?" and the Israeli people will believe them.

      So as I said, I don't know but I can see it going both ways and I am not sure as of yet how it will go. I think a lot depends on how much or if the Palestinians resort to violence.

    2. I agree with your analysis. Unfortunately, I think more violence is certain. Hamas seems to be convinced that they "won" this latest conflict with Israel. And as we know all too well from the Lebanon/Hezbollah example, even when Israel completely and unilaterally withdraws from occupied territory to comply with international law, the terrorism doesn't end.

      I understand why Abbas did it, and I blame Netanyahu for pushing the PA so hard in that direction. He could have given more token victories to the PA. Instead, he caved to Hamas and international pressure after what I consider a fairly restrained response to years of rocket activity from Gaza.

      This is really frustrating to watch, because I see all of these recent events -- and someone else wrote about this here earlier this week -- making the extremists on both sides more popular.

    3. Yep, what you say regarding the Hizbollah / Gaza example is correct. In fact, withdrawal is seen as a sign of weakness. Hamas, P.I.J. and other groups (who together make up a majority of the Palestinian polity, at least by the total vote in the last election) seem to see an Israeli withdrawal of any kind in that light.

      I too understand why Abbas did it. I am not sure how I feel about it though. I don't like that there are no defined borders, and certainly no clear leadership. If the purpose was to take Israeli leaders to the ICC... That is a joke.

      Israel is not a member of the Court and would not respect it's decisions in any case. The Court has no mechanisms for enforcement as well. It would be Kabuki at it's finest and would only serve to harden hearts.

      I am planning on filling in the rest of the parts of my series on how the Right on all sides "won" in Gaza but I am still trying to figure out Egypt. If President Morsi's power grab holds.... well that speaks for itself.

    4. You "register" free and get 10 articles a month from Haaretz if you want to see that one. I am still kinda bummed about the paywall

  4. (livosh1)
    So, rather than make the best of the circumstances, Bibi & Co.'s response is...wait for goes...let's expand the settlements!!!

    Very depressing, IMO. I so wish that Israelis would elect a more moderate government.

  5. I just don't get the Israeli position here. I can take crap from people over Gaza... I get what the Israelis are up against with bombs coming over from the other side. But the West Bank??? From what I can tell its been peaceful. ...and they just keep on building settlements. Being really cynical you can say that the settlements give them some leverage in the negotiation. I don't agree with that strategy, but even if thats what they are trying to do they've gone way too far in that direction. They hurt more than help at this point.

    All I can hope is for the Israeli people to figure out what is in their own best interest.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. I don't get it either. I think you are right about the attempt to gain leverage but I think it is causing issues with more steady allies.

      Here is some rather major news from today:

      “London is furious about the E1 decision,” a European diplomat told Haaretz.

      According to three senior diplomats from various EU countries, Britain and France were coordinating their moves against Israel, which they will reportedly implement over the next few days, and have discussed the extraordinary step of recalling their ambassadors from Tel Aviv for consultations. This step has never been taken before by these countries toward Israel. It would be so extreme that Britain and France may not take such action at this point but, rather, could invoke it in the case of further escalation of Israeli actions against the Palestinians. A final decision in the matter will be made today by the British and the French foreign ministers.